In the summer of 1977, I went rock climbing about a dozen times at Stoney Point in the northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley (on Topanga Canyon Blvd. just south of the Ronald Reagan Freeway, which is, now that I think of it, a very SoCal-sounding intersection). It’s a sandstone promontory a couple of hundred feet high that played a historic role in the development of rock climbing in America. It was an early training ground of famous Yosemite climbers like Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia), the late John Bachar, and top female climber Lynn Hill. Already by 1974, the city of Los Angeles had declared it a historical landmark.
Here are some videos on Stoney Point. I particularly liked the the 1970s “Eye on LA” segment.
By the end of that summer of 1977, I realized A) I was too clumsy to be a good rock climber and B) I was getting progressively more scared of heights as A) sunk in. So, I gave my climbing rope to my much better and braver friend Joe, who went on to do some big league climbing in Yosemite.
Yesterday, I went back to Stoney Point on a lovely spring day. It’s still a beautiful place on a macro scale, but on a micro scale, the graffiti, trash, and broken glass everywhere were a drag.
The remaining rock climbers organize clean-up days (here are pictures).
Some of the trash picked up 9/9/2000
Was it this bad in 1977? I don’t recall that it was, and the 1970s video doesn’t suggest it either. I did find a photo from the 1950s that showed signs painted on the rock face as advertising for motorists driving by on Topanga. But, a big accomplishment of the rise of environmentalism in the 1960s-1970s was that Americans exerted greater self-discipline against the natural urge to litter and deface nature.
(Rock climbers took this preservationist ethic to an extreme by increasingly rejecting drilling bolts into the rock or even pounding pitons into cracks to secure their safety ropes, or rejecting ropes altogether, an ethos that a number of rock climbers, like local legend Bachar, have paid for with their lives.)
So, maybe in fifty years, Latinos will have caught up with where white Angelenos were in 1977. Or maybe not.
Is there any way to hurry this process along?
Conservationist Progressives of a century ago had multiple strategies for preserving America’s natural beauty, including immigration restriction. Another was to publicly shame immigrant groups for engaging in retrograde behavior not up to sophisticated American standards.
This seems to have been fairly effective in inducing newcomers to assimilate to American norms. After all, people don’t want their groups exposed to accurate criticism, so one way to avoid that is to stop doing what draws criticism.
The Keep America Beautiful campaign was organized by rich WASPs and corporations in 1953 to shame Americans into not littering. (The rise of non-biodegradable plastics made litter semi-permanent.) As commenters have noted, the biggest breakthrough was the 1971 “Crying Indian” TV PSA commercial that used Iron Eyes Cody to racially shame white people into not polluting their environment.
(Okay, Iron Eyes Cody was actually an Italian-American actor who specialized in playing Native Americans, but the point is that the “iconic” commercial worked.)
The more popular way to quiet correct criticism today, though, is to furiously denounce critics as racists. Any criticism of Latinos for their propensity to litter is a Stereotype demonstrating that you are full of Hate.
For example, if you type Latinos litter into Google, the first two responses are: